Hundreds of nonprofit organizations could dramatically increase awareness and donations if they used social media more effectively. Most nonprofits rely on volunteers, who engage in a variety of offline marketing efforts such as direct mail, flyers, and phone banks. That’s fine, of course, but the smart nonprof will use every tool at its disposal, and these days, that means supplementing offline tools with online ones such as social media. Why use social media in fundraising? Here are a few reasons:
- Social media can increase your exposure by up to 400 percent over “older-school” (offline) methods, positioning your organization for increased awareness – and donations.
- Social media engagement offers “instant gratification”: instant (or nearly instant) communication between you and your audience; and, provided that your social media sites are properly connected, instant donations.
- Social media are flexible, so if something you’re doing on your site(s) isn’t working, you can tweak it with a minimum amount of time and effort.
- Social media produce results, and ways to effectively measure those results.
If, like some nonprofits, you think social is a waste of time and yields disappointing results, it could be that you simply haven’t learned to use social media effectively. Don’t give up on social before you’ve given it a fair shot.
Five ways to leverage social media for fundraising
Whether you’re raising funds for a specific event or simply trying to keep the donations flowing over the long term, your nonprofit can benefit from social media use if you…
- Engage often. You probably don’t have endless hours each day to spend on social media activities (see caveat at the end of this post), but if you want to get a reasonable ROI on your social efforts you need to engage daily if possible. And don’t dismiss Twitter; even though some people find Twitter frustrating because of the character limit per tweet, it’s actually a very useful little tool for brief updates, links to pictures and expanded content (not to mention the donation landing page). Twitter is an easy way to provide live continuous updates during a fundraising event such as an auction, bake sale, marathon, or telethon - letting donors know that they truly are making a difference.
- Post your wish lists. Sometimes the direct approach works best. You can use sites such as Facebook and Pinterest to post specific items your nonprofit needs, and to provide instructions on how to donate those items. Most groups can always use cash donations, but many need other items as well. For instance, an animal rescue organization may ask for donations of cat and dog food. A homeless shelter might need blankets and coats. Don’t be shy; tell the people what you need.
- Consider crowdfunding. Most people think of Kickstarter as the go-to site for artists, filmmakers and other creative types who need funding for a creative project. But nonprofits can use Kickstarter too. If you need to raise a certain amount for a specific purpose, with a set deadline, set up an account on Kickstarter or a similar site. The presence you create there will provide a way to publicize the event or project while offering an effortless way for people to donate funds. Of course you should use your social media sites to publicize the Kickstarter effort and to share progress reports. You can also utilize apps for Facebook such as the crowdfunding tool FundRazr, and you can share the app via Facebook, Twitter, email, your web site, your blog, or all of the above.
- Link your social sites with your other online sites. As powerful and effective as it can be, social is just one part of a solid online presence. For maximum effectiveness your social media sites should work in concert with your other efforts: your main web site, blog, online newsletter, and email campaigns. Make sure all of your social sites provide easy access to your organization’s web site, which should be well-designed and inviting. As a nonprofit, you need a web site that gives people an incentive to visit frequently (and hopefully be inspired to donate).
- Make sure that all-important link to your “Donate Now” landing page is visible on every page of every site you maintain. You don’t want to hit people in the face with it – okay, well you sort of do, though gently – but you do want to make it as easy as possible for them to donate. Of course you also want to make sure your donation site is secure. For more information about best practices regarding donations, see this article by Nonprofit Tech for Good.
Time is precious, and most volunteers and staff don’t have a whole lot of it to spend on any one task or site, so be sure to manage your social media time wisely. Fifteen minutes to a half-hour per day on each site should be adequate, unless you can afford to hire a full time social media manager. However you structure responsibilities, make sure that someone is always in charge and that everybody handling your social media content accurately represents your organization’s mission and vision.